Pennsylvania Legislation

With thanks to Jan Meisels Allen for the following update on Pennsylvania legislation:
> Pennsylvania Open Records Act
> The newly enacted (2008) Open Records Act became effective January 1,
> 2009.
> The law declared that all state, county, and local government records
> are public unless specifically exempted. The law created a new Office
> of Open Records for Pennsylvania
>  To get more
> information IAJGS contacted the senior attorney for the new department
> and learned the charges per page ($0.25 maximum) do NOT apply to
> marriage and death records  and due to other established law, birth
> and adoption records are NOT covered under the new law.
> From an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, April 11, 2009 it
> appears that Governor Rendell’s administration is going out of its way
> to block public access to government documents.  The article quoted a
> letter from Commissioner Mutchler to the governor “Some agencies …
> are using the Right-to-Know law as a shield with which to block
> information rather than a tool with which to open records of
> government.”
> The Office of Open Records in Pennsylvania on a case brought by a
> genealogist who brought suit through the Office of Open Records
> against the Philadelphia Marriage Bureau for their charging $20-$30
> per record, charging for looking at a record, preventing use of a
> digital camera, and limiting the number of records one may request at
> a time.  The case was decided July 31, 2009, and the plaintiff won on
> some points and lost on others–per the Office of Open Records the
> Philadelphia Marriage Bureau may only charge $2.00 per page plus $2.00
> for certification, the Registrar may not charge to view the
> record,   no digital camera may be used to copy the records, the City
> conceded on the number of requests at one time.  Currently the City
> would only provide certified copies and used that as part of the
> reason for their high charges.  The City of  Philadelphia has notified
> the parties that they will appeal their loss of the case in both in
> both the Common Pleas and Commonwealth Courts. While the case is being
> appealed the decision is in limbo. To read the decision go to:
> /4434/final_determinations/481690
> Pennsylvania HB563
> This bill requires the Department of Health to prepare an electronic
> database for all vital records. It would also require the transfer of
> all birth and death records after 100 years to the Pennsylvania
> Historical and Museum Commission. The bill is sitting in its original
> committee as of this posting no hearings have been scheduled.
> Pennsylvania HB 931
> This bill would establish an Internet-based electronic death
> registration system for creation, storage and transfer of the
> information.  It would also establish, for birth and death records, to
> become public records and the information would become available at no
> fee, on an Internet-system maintained by the Department of Health.
> The Department of Health would be required to establish and maintain
> an Internet based-system for birth and death certificates as a
> searchable database open to the public. The database would be subject
> to any limitation on access and release required by other existing
> laws. In addition, the Department of Health would establish and
> maintain a searchable index database of all death records between 2-50
> years of age.
> A
> similar bill was introduced last year with no hearings held. RPAC has
> agreed to send a letter of support to Governor Rendell and key
> legislators on this bill.

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